On the Radio: Agricultural initiative to curb climate change effects


Hay bales along the Maple River near Castana, Iowa (TumblingRun / Flickr)
Hay bales along the Maple River near Castana, Iowa (TumblingRun / Flickr)

This week’s On the Radio segment looks at a new initiate to mitigate the effects of climate change on Iowa farmers. Listen to the audio below, or continue reading for the transcript.

Transcript: Agriculture and Climate Change

A North American farm group is taking proactive steps to reduce the effects of climate change on agriculture.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

The group – Solution from the Land – is supporting the North American Climate Smart Agriculture Initiative. The initiative aims to bring together representatives from industry and academia as well as government and non-government organizations in an effort to mitigate the effects of climate change for farmers.

The initiative follows the release of the National Climate Statement which suggests that at its current rate, the effects of climate change will be largely detrimental to crops and livestock over the next 25 years. The initiative aims to help farmers adapt to changes in precipitation and temperature.

The American Farm Bureau Federation, the American Soybean Association, and the National Farmers Union are some of the national organizations which have endorsed the effort.

For more information about the North American Climate Smart Agriculture Initiative, visit IowaEnvironmentalFocus.org.

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Jerry Schnoor.

source: http://farmfutures.com/story-reducing-climate-change-risk-ag-0-120108; http://www.sfldialogue.net/SFL/press_release_9-23-2014.pdf

Dubuque recognized for efforts to address climate change


Dubuque has been declared a presidental disaster zone six times since 1999. (Wikimedia)
Flooding on the Mississippi River has caused Dubuque to be declared a presidential disaster zone six times since 1999. (Wikimedia)

Nick Fetty | December 9, 2014

Dubuque, Iowa was among 15 other local and tribal communities to be named Climate Action Champions by the White House last week.

Dubuque was recognized because of its Community Climate Action & Resiliency Plan which has set a greenhouse gas reduction goal of being 50 percent below 2003 levels by 2030. The plan – which examined Dubuque from 2003 to 2011 – traced emissions to four main sources: industrial (31%), residential (24%), transportation (23%), and commercial (17%), with the remaining 5 percent coming from the landfill methane.

The city hopes to further offset carbon emissions by further utilizing renewable energy sources. The report states that “solar and wind installations in Dubuque are expected to yield 10,000-30,000 mt (metric tonnes) of annual reductions by 2030.” Wind energy and other renewables generated 18 percent of electricity in Dubuque during the study in 2010.

In addition to efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions, Dubuque was also honored because of the city’s emphasis on flood-conscious infrastructure. Flooding on the Mississippi River has caused Dubuque to be declared a presidential disaster zone six times in the last 16 years so the city is now focused on mitigation efforts.

The Bee Branch Watershed Flood Mitigation Project is a $179-million project that will focus on a 6.5 square mile district where more than half of the city’s population lives or works. The project aims to “both reduce the volume and slow the rate of stormwater in the upper watershed, provide safer conveyance of stormwater in flood-conducive areas, and protect the City’s wastewater treatment plant from stormwater.” Construction is expected to begin fall 2015 and be completed by 2016.

The Climate Action Champions were selected by representatives from the Department of Energy.

On the Radio: New rule to curb agricultural pollution


A tractor sprays liquid manure onto an Iowa field (Mark Evans / Flickr)
A tractor sprays liquid manure onto an Iowa field (Mark Evans / Flickr)

This week’s On the Radio segment looks at a new measure that provide stricter enforcement of rules against manure spills. Listen to the audio below, or continue reading for the transcript.

Transcript: New Rule

A new rule to curb agricultural pollution in Iowa waterways is now in effect.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources, as part of a deal with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, has developed a new measure which will provide stricter enforcement of rules against manure spills on livestock farms. More than 60 such spills have been reported over the last year, which have caused contamination leading to fish kills and water pollution.

The DNR is poised to inspect farms’ handling of manure more stringently, issuing fines to operations that don’t cooperate. Earlier this year, a dairy farm was ordered to pay over $160,000 for a spill that killed hundreds of thousands of fish in a nearby lake.

Iowa farms produce waste from 60 million chickens, 20 million pigs, 9 million turkeys, and 4 million cows.

For more information about the new environmental measure, visit IowaEnvironmentalFocus.org.

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Jerry Schnoor.

Photos + Video: Iowa Climate Statement 2014


The 4th annual Iowa Climate Statement, signed by 180 researchers and scientists from 38 colleges and universities across the state, was released last month during a press conference at the state capitol. The Iowa Climate Statement 2014: Impacts on the Health of Iowans examines public health risks associated with climate change. Video from the event is now available below, along with photos (above). Please feel free to share the video using the share buttons attached.

Climate and health experts discuss effects of climate change on Iowans


Nick Fetty | November 4, 2014

The 2014 Iowa Climate Science Educators Forum took place on the University of Iowa Oakdale Campus in Coralville on Friday, October 31. The 2nd annual event was attended by approximately 50 climate and health experts from across the state.

Chris Anderson – Assistant Director Climate Science Program at Iowa State University – was the first to present at Friday’s event as he discussed the impact of climate change in Iowa.

“Climate change in Iowa is different from climate change on TV,” he said.

One example of this is the frequency of spring and summer rainfall combinations. There were approximately seven instances of spring and summer rainfall combinations between 1893 and 1980 compared to five instances between 2008 and 2014.

Mary Spokec – research geologist and program coordinator for IOWATER – along with David Osterberg – Associate Clinical Professor of Environmental Policy in the University of Iowa’s Department of Occupational and Environmental Health  – took the stage next to discuss water quality issues related to climate change. They said part of the reason for toxic algal blooms which can lead to water contamination is because there are no national standards for algal cyanotoxins.

This issue can be particularly problematic in Iowa other agricultural states where nitrogen and phosphorus can runoff of fields and into waterways which exacerbates the growth of hazardous algal blooms such as blue green algae. Extreme weather associated with climate change has also affected these algal growths. According to weekly monitoring of 38 state-owned beaches, there were 46 water quality advisories during 2013 and 2014 compared to seven in 2011 and two in 2010.

Peter Thorne – head of the UI’s Department of Occupational and Environmental Health – presented next about climate-induced air quality issues affecting Iowans. Molds such as Aspergillus and Penicillium can grow on damp wood in houses and other structures that sustain flood damage. This can lead to a range of pulmonary conditions including mold allergies, asthma, inflammation of mucous membranes, Katrina cough, and Alveolitis. Climate change has also been attributed to more extreme weather events such as heavy rain falls which can lead to flooding.

Increased carbon dioxide levels, hotter temperatures, and a longer growing season (each of which can at least partially be attributed to climate change) is causing poison ivy plants to be more potent. Other allergenic plants have also seen increases in potency as well as an expanded range because conditions attributed to climate change.

Yogesh Shah – Associate Dean of Global Health at Des Moines University – discussed how has climate change has effected disease-carrying insect populations.

“This is the most deadly animal around,” Shah said of mosquitoes, adding that the disease-carrying insects have killed more humans than all other animals combined.

Approximately 600,000 deaths occur each year because of mosquitoes and reported cases of malaria are the greatest they’ve been since 1971. A relatively unheard of disease known as Chikungunya is on the rise, particularly in areas of Africa, India, China, and other parts of southeast Asia. Around 750,000 cases of Chikungunya have been reported in Caribbean and some cases have moved as far north into Florida and other parts of the U.S.

Two cases of Chikungunya has been reported in Iowa by people who contracted the disease while traveling. West Nile Virus is also carried by mosquitoes and in 2002 there were cases of either human or non-human WNV reported in every county in Iowa. Warmer temperatures and a longer growing season have also led to greater numbers of longer-living mosquitoes.

Peter Thorne concluded the morning session by discussing mental health affects caused by increased heat and particularly warmer nighttime temperatures. The group then broke for lunch and spent the rest of the afternoon participating in a public health tracking portal presented by  environmental epidemiologists Tim Wickam and Rob Walker from the Iowa Department of Public Health.

Many of the public health and environmental issues discussed at Iowa Climate Science Educators Forum were included in the Iowa Climate Statement 2014: Impacts on the Health of Iowans.

Flood sensor expansion continues


A stream sensor attached to a bridge, placed by the Iowa Flood Center. (Iowa Flood Center photo / Flickr)
A stream sensor attached to a bridge, placed by the Iowa Flood Center. (Iowa Flood Center photo / Flickr)
KC McGinnis | October 22, 2014

The Iowa Flood Center is dramatically expanding the scope of its river and stream sensor network across the state this fall.

The Flood Center, which has installed 200 river and stream gauges since 2010, will add an additional 50 sensors in collaboration with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. These gauges monitor water levels in real time and send the data back to the Iowa Flood Information System (IFIS), which can be viewed by the public. Citizens, landowners and governments can then use this web-based tool to look for flood warnings, monitor water levels upstream from their location, and see exactly how far flood waters will reach in a given situation.

The sensors, which are usually installed on bridges, measure the distance to the water by sending an electronic pulse every 15 minutes. The availability of such precise measurements has already had a significant impact on local businesses, especially those located in floodplains. The sensors, which cost around $3,500 each, can save businesses thousands more by preventing losses in production and labor during flood season.

Iowa Flood Center staff and students will install the new sensors over the coming weeks. Watch the video below to learn more about how these sensors are installed across the state.

On the Radio: Iowa scientists connect state water quality issues to climate change


Morning fog rises off of Lake MacBride near Solon, IA. The lake reported a massive fish kill due in part to blue-green algae earlier this year. (KC McGinnis / for CGRER)
Morning fog rises off of Lake MacBride near Solon, IA. The lake reported a massive fish kill due in part to blue-green algae earlier this year. (KC McGinnis / for CGRER)
October 20, 2014

This week’s On the Radio segment looks at highlights from the Iowa Climate Statement 2014: Impacts on the Health of Iowans, released Friday, October 10. Listen to the audio below, or continue reading for the transcript.

Transcript: Climate Statement 2

Climate change causes extreme weather, increased flooding and resulting water pollution, which is threatening the health of Iowans.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

The Iowa Climate Statement 2014: Impacts on the Health of Iowans, released in October, examined how repeated heavy rains and the resulting flooding have led to increased exposure to toxic chemicals and raw sewage, which can have negative effects on health for humans and animals.

The fourth annual statement was signed by 180 scientists and researchers from 38 colleges and universities across Iowa.

Heavy rains in agricultural areas causes phosphorus and nitrates to run off fields and into waterways. These polluted waterways coupled with increased water temperature have spurred algal blooms on still bodies of water during peak summer heats. These algal blooms make the water unsafe for human or animal consumption or recreation.

For more information about the Iowa Climate Statement 2014, visit IowaEnvironmentalFocus.org.

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Jerry Schnoor.